With Mardi Gras Parades Canceled, Floats Find a New Home
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With Mardi Gras Parades Canceled, Floats Find a New Home

Annie Flanagan And

NEW ORLEANS – Sunset flows through warehouse windows, where René Pierre engages float props from Styrofoam, carefully adding details of dozens of decorations for this year’s Mardi Gras festival on Tuesday.

Mr. Pirre is the owner of Crescent City Artist and has worked as a Mardi Gras float artist for 34 years. But he needed to figure out a new way of doing things this time. The parade was canceled by the city to prevent large crowds from gathering, so he and other celebrities Instead decided to make tableaux in front of people’s homes.

It was the middle of January, and Mr. Pierre’s clothes and hands were covered in paint, with only a few weeks to go before the celebration. Two floats refer to artists and a veteran float carpenter worked with them. “I’m walking on smoke now,” Mr. Pierre said.

Mr. Pierre was not sure that the celebration would happen at all.

As the coronavirus spread, tourism was one of the first activities to disappear. This is no more evident than during the Mardi Gras season, which is usually Brings in millions of dollars Starts every year for New Orleans.

The loss of the parade is both financial and spiritual. Since the first Mardi Gras in New Orleans in 1857, elaborate tableaux paraded through the city on the last Tuesday before Lent. Thousands of people take to the streets and marching bands and dance teams come to perform, their horns and drums echoing from the buildings. Social clubs and groups of artists and organizers – run by names such as the Crewe of Orpheus and the Cress of Muse – float and prepare for the ceremony practically every month of the year.

But not this time. Marching bands will not march. Bars across the city Are closed. When the parade was canceled, dozens of float artists and carpenters were Fired.

But the city was not ready to give up. Soon after the cancellation announcement, a woman, Megan Boudryx, said on Twitter, “It’s fixed. We’re doing this. Turn your house into a float and let all the beads in your attic and your neighbors walk Throw it away. “

The idea took off, and crews like moose and red beans began working on homes almost immediately.

Ms. Boudryx formed the Crave of House Floats, which is tracking the number of installations that she and others are building around the city. There are approximately 3,000 house floats in the New Orleans area.

“I think it really speaks to how desperate people are to do something positive to move forward,” Ms. Boudreaux said. “It doesn’t matter if your budget is zero and you’re recycling cardboard boxes, or whether your budget is worth thousands of dollars and you’ve got a mansion on St. Charles. We want whoever participates in it. Wants to

The Red Beans Crave is providing food to frontline workers and working for unemployed artists. It says it has raised about $ 300,000 and has created about 50 jobs so far for one of its programs, Higher A Mardi Gras Artist.

“New Orleans is there to take a bad situation and turn it into a positive situation,” said Kelly Starrett, with Mr. Pierre setting up a float at his home. “We are not going to parade? Okay, we’ll decorate the houses, and we’ll find a way to appoint artists and raise money for the charity. It speaks of the residential of the people in the city. “

Not all festivals will be held in this year’s tableaux. Some will pay tribute to members of the Mardi Gras Indians, known for their elaborate hand sewn Died. The community is Black, and its traditions are rooted in African culture.

As in other parts of the country, the virus outpaced the Black House in New Orleans, and Black patients accounted for it. More than three quarters of those hospitals Around the city with Kovid-19 last spring.

The five house floats, all within one case of the blocks, will each contain an eight-foot photograph of a Mardi Gras Indian who died.

For 54-year-old Mr. Pierre, the tableau brought a ray of hope.

His wife Inez had already lost the job of a mental health specialist when the parade was canceled in late November. “We were trying to find work that would be safe for us to survive,” Inge said.

But when the parade could not go on, the tableaux could go on. Mr. Pierre began offering to make house tableaux for others. “The light bulb went off,” he said. “This is our ticket.”

With just less than a month to go before Mardi Gras, Mr. Pierre’s three employees squeezed into a U-Haul truck and built installations in the city. Mr. Pierre has worked on 60 House Floats in New Orleans.

In a house with a float dedicated to artist Dolly Parton, Inez Poire bent over the fence and painted large panels as workers.

“Sometimes I have to sit down and think about how easily the tradition changes,” she said. “We are a part of it; Our names in the books are below. It is a dream come true. “

Annie Flanagan and Akash Rabut are photographers based in New Orleans.



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